A Star Wars mystery story
Rating: PG for violence, use of the term "bloody", and emotional and potentially abusive themes.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars. I do, however, own all original characters; and all appearing characters most likly are. This is a first-person view story, not related at all to the Star Wars movies. I don't care if it doesn't follow canon, because by all rights, it'll avoid being related to canon at all costs. Consider it, in a sense, an original story with a writer too lazy to make a new universe. Probably AU due to... stuff.
A/N: Yes, I have been reading the Nightside books by Simon R. Green lately. Constructive reviews are nice. Flames are not.This was in response to a challenge on in which we were to use certain words in a story.
Though Coruscant never did have trees, I found myself thinking that as I walked along the overbearing paths, there should have been branches overhanging. Branches laden with brown leaves just waiting to fall their twisted ways down and flutter to the sidewalk. But no, this was Coruscant. The heart of the galaxy, a place where cause and effect were both the same thing, regal home of the Jedi Knights, and utmost chaotic center—I sighed to myself. This was Coruscant, no one would deny it.
The gem of the galaxy, and also the darkest center it could ever have birthed.
But even here, up in the royal dwellings nearer to the surface, in a more secluded area, I had no time to waste bemused over the lack of trees. It was a fact. Coruscant hadn't had trees in years, and this was no time to be spending all my spare time ragging over it. So there was no fitting mood. It wouldn't hurt anything if all that surrounded me was tall, skyscraping buildings which glimmered in both the sunlight and unnatural mechanics drowning out all true lighting. In fact, it was almost blinding; I most certainly couldn't afford the distracted point of being.
It still would've been a nice touch, however. Having dead leaves falling to be crushed under my booted feet, the golden-warm sunlight smiling down upon a face masked in shadow. This wasn't my home. I never had quite accepted Coruscant as my home; no place without true sunlight could ever be friendly to me. But nonetheless, it was where I lived.
As much as people go on about home is where the heart is, they're wrong. Home is where the heart is, but that doesn't necessarily mean your heart is where your feet are. Certainly, Coruscant offers opportunities. It also offers poverty.
Perhaps it was simply my luck I was born into the situation I was.
Here, atop the city, there were no parking places. I supposed it didn't matter, it didn't do me any harm to walk and there weren't enough sentients here for me to have any strong degree of fear. It was almost as if intentionally, the place had been wiped of all humanity. I'm not a Force user; Jedi are as alien as a Hutt would be to me. But there's a sixth sense built into any human being, particularly one who's spent most of their life living by cynicism and distrust.
I should know. I've got the blaster scars to prove it. You don't survive in a ruthless galaxy by dithering in a grove and letting trees shed leaves on you. Simply a nice thought. Nothing more.
Kicking a rock aside (I didn't question where it had come from, it didn't look to be natural, simply a piece of durecrete broken from a building) I approached the nearest building. For a moment, I questioned the accuracy of my directions. Here! But, no… it was the same numbers and coordinates in Coruscant's many layers, the same ones listed on the blue screen of my datapad in firm Basic letters.
Nonetheless, the tall silver building intimidated me. It seemed to scrape the very sky itself; yea, even surpass it and taunt the ships up there in the atmosphere and vacuum itself. I don't deny it, I'm a bit of a melodramatic touch at times. I can't help it. It's nearly killed me a few times, but all in all, things could be a lot worse.
After all, I could be naïve.
A whistle escaped between my teeth as I approached it and pulled the door open. The questioning gazes of security gave me severe looks. Human guards, I thought to myself. Any place rich enough to pay for a sentient's training as a full-blown guard had to be out to lunch. I mean, you know a restaurant's a good one when they have human or Twi'lek waiters. Well, at least the former. The latter tend to drift towards more… you know… the whole wink nudge sort of idea. Sentients, at any rate, when droids can be hired for minuscule rates (don't ask me what they do with the money), tend to indicate the wealth of a location.
I didn't need to see the human security guards to know that the place was rich, though. That was revealed the moment I stepped onto the plush velvet carpet, gazing out at a soft pink and silver interior. Everything was streamlined, even moreso than what Coruscant can offer normally. It was a far cry from the sharp edged basement levels I come from, anyway. Down there, graffiti litters more than just the walls and trash cans. It's a dangerous place.
Here, you could almost forget that such a place even existed.
Here, it was breathtaking.
I heard the one guard step up behind me, letting the moment pass with a bit of openmouthed gaping at the splendor. You don't expect this when you're called out on a case. Not when you're the local lower-levels freelancer.
A hand clamped down onto my shoulder. I turned smoothly to face the detective, staring at his pale blue eyes. His face was hidden underneath the helmet; I didn't have to look to know that he would be protected by blast shields and that if I tried harming him or resisting any orders, I'd be shot.
"No one enters with weapons."
I blew a whistle out between my teeth. "Hey, hey. I'm not planning on shooting anyone—" At his expression, I saw that was the wrong thing to say. I wasn't quite certain why, only that it had been wrong, somehow. I pulled my blaster from the holster, offering it hilt-first to the guard.
His face was both cynical and somehow demeaning. "Do you have authorization?"
My fingers slipped to my belt slowly, carefully. He didn't look the type to just stand there and let me whip out a hidden weapon. I retrieved it, handing it over to the guard. A long, uncomfortable silence passed as he scrutinized the orders. I wasted it examining a strange abstract painting on the wall. It depicted, ironically, a fall foliage abstract. Somehow woven underneath all the chaos was the villainous smile of triumph, of a hidden secret.
The guard had tapped me on the shoulder several times before I turned sharply. He shook his head, handing back the datapad. I almost thought I had been denied entry when he sighed. "Your loss."
Somehow, I felt I had missed something.
There was a turbolift in the lobby; I took it to the correct floor with no further interference from guards. The streamlined place now seemed ever so slightly more suspicious to my trained thoughts, though it might have simply been a distrust of upper-level dwellers, and simply high-born people in general. I couldn't help it. It wasn't as if I had to love them.
The plush carpet continued down the hallway once I reached the correct floor. Was there no end to the infernal wealth of these levels? It seemed to me as if it had been made to rub it in the faces of the lower lifes. We were lesser.
83-A. I stopped at reaching the correct apartment, hitting the buzzer. Odd. Most lower-level apartments had buzzers at the doors, alerting the people in the apartments. I hadn't thought the upper Coruscanti would've been any different. But at least they had security guards on continual patrol. I could've broken into any lower-level apartment building without a second's thought. This one at least appeared to have strong security.
A woman answered the door. A woman who I simply hoped was the one who had contacted me.
"Ielsa Jhome?" I asked tentatively.
"Lady Jhome is dead," the curt answer came.
Like I hadn't already suspected it. As I mentioned, you don't get anywhere in my job by disregarding foolish little clues. I stuck my foot in the door before she could slam it, though it actually didn't look as if she had planned to. I had a very strong suspicion that I was about to become a pawn in a lot larger of a game. This dejarik game had begun.
"She hired me."
A snob, or else this woman was Kuati by birth. I didn't care to know. I carried on, pressuring her gently. "Why?"
"Because she very clearly desired aid."
"Quite possibly in this house."
Oh, for… "For what purpose did she hire my aid in what sort of mission, conquest, thing?"
"Horrid grammar." The woman snorted snobbishly. "I suppose you cannot possibly ask any more politely than that. Thaeran was kidnapped. I do not see why a droid detective did not suit her. Nonetheless, you still arrived. And I suppose you wish to carry out this tirade."
"Well… if she's dead…"
The woman shook her head. "Dead or not, you still happen to be under her employee." She cast me a pointed look. "As it may be, Raoin has offered to accompany you."
All the strange names, and no time to absorb them. Had she not been glowering at me with this horrid gray gaze, I would've muttered rather unflattering terms to myself. "Right. Where's this Raoin?"
A shorter boy (I suppose it was unessential information to indicate my height being rather taller than the average human male) appeared from behind the woman. She was tall, and very imposing in the doorway. I hadn't noticed him before now. Black haired and gray eyed, he also seemed to carry the annoying Kuati bearing I had a bad feeling I'd be getting very accustomed to being around if this case continued. Or, at least, getting more or less used to. I didn't think I could ever grow to not mind that infernal accent drilling at my mind.
I judged him to be a young teenager, acne spots showing up along his neck and forehead. Perhaps fourteen at the oldest.
I stifled the urge to laugh aloud, nonetheless. Kuati people, from what I had heard, were very success oriented. Perhaps one of their teenage children would be more mature than the standard from where I had come from. I mean, when I was fourteen, I spent my time tying knots in people's shoelaces and hitting girls with spitballs. This—this child…
His gaze frightened me.
"Are you going to let me in? I can't very well find some girl… Thaeren, wasn't it?" I didn't wait for any acknowledgement, anyway. "Well, I can't find her if I don't know what to look for…"
"Raoin will tell you." That was no polite phrasing in her voice. It was an order. An order that came from a voice expected to be obeyed.
Some part of me wanted to grovel and mutter yes, Master at her, but I had a feeling she would behead me if I tried. After all, it would've been undeniable satire. "So you're just sending the kid with me!"
"…Well… school, and he's just a kid, and…"
"You can't possibly be afraid of taking care of a teenage boy for a period of time?" She cast me a haughty and very humorless smile. "After all, you are one yourself. He shall not be a bother, and knows what you need."
"He will accompany you." It was an explicit order; this time I didn't keep the wince from showing on my face.
I gave her my best steely detective glower. Of course, she wasn't short enough for it to be of full effect. I prefer my clients to be under five and a half feet if all possible. They're far easier to intimidate. The six foot tall women… well… they're scary. They can glare you nearly in the eye, and intimidate you right back. The ones that know they can… well…
It's not that far off to admit that they're even worse.
"Right," I growled. "You're just so trusting, sure I'm not a random murderer here to claim your kid."
As if I'd care, her eyes seemed to say. I grabbed the kid's arm, pulling him into the hallway. They had expected this, clearly. He had a backpack with him already. I hated dealing with people like this. They came to conclusions almost immediately, and somehow knew everything before you did. In situations like these, it was then that I wished I were a Jedi Knight. At least then I'd know what their point was.
"Look, kid. If you're coming along, you're not going to be a disturbance. You'll tell me what I need to know, when I need to know it. Right?"
His eyes bored into mine. "Of course."
It was that moment that I realized this Raoin scared me. Was there a child underneath this adult mind's shell left to dig out? Or would I be accompanied by yet another Kuati manipulator? One who would slowly tear away at my very mind until I was driven past the point of no return, where only sanity laughed at me from its corner…
I did mention I was a bit melodramatic, right?
"You will take Raoin to your police cruiser or whatever. There he will give you whatever directions you need."
I found her choice of words interesting. Not a speeder. I filed it away for later observation in case it ever came in handy. Likely as not it was simply another accent, one of the finer aspects of a Kuati accent, rather than traditional Basic. Water closet instead of a toilet, and such not. But it was an interesting observation; the amount of people I knew who referred to speeders and ships as cruisers I could count on one hand.
Nonetheless, there was a bit more unimportant banter. I was more interested by those intensive eyes that child profferred. He dressed like a noble. Well, if his mother (I presumed that was who she was) was so out to send him with me, he'd be out for the shock of his life. I certainly wasn't about to soften the appearance of lower-level life. We left the plush building sometime after that—his mother refusing me entry to her appartment to search for clues even after I had attempted to pressure her.
I made a mental note to myself to bring the kid back in a couple days if I could get no leads from his presense.
The continual themed paintings of trees and branches and orange remarks stared down at me as we left the pink, satin, and velvet appartment building. I had to admit it, my feet were a bit glad once we left that area, finally walking on true, hard and solid ground. It wasn't a mocking makeup of velvet, made for those not bold enough to walk where it was solid. This was, if nothing else, firm.
I knew there was probably nothing underneath it. After all, these were the upper levels. But no matter. It was real.
The kid... Raoin, I had to remind myself of his name... followed along silently. His shoes scuffed along the concrete with a sort of dull sense to them. He hadn't wanted to come? I didn't know if he had said anything the entire time. It didn't matter, not yet. I was too busy trying to keep track of the rush of potential possibilities this mission profferred. It was a slightly different case than any I had ever taken on. I admitted it, I would've rathered drop it. When forced into a real, galaxy-wide game of dejarik, I prefer not to be the pawn.
We reached my speeder after a few minute's walk through the silver city. Keying it open, I nodded at the kid. "Well, you're stuck with me, I guess."
He had that same accent; once he had spoken I was certain he had once before. I remembered that Kuati accent drilling at my mind. Short, but long-legged, Raoin had no difficulty boarding my dark blue speeder. Cruiser, I remembered his mother calling it. A local thing, or...
I walked around and hopped in, not bothering to open the door. I had deactivated the shielding, and there was no point in bothering with a door. It worked, didn't it? But I still had to adjust my tunic underneath myself to sit back in comfortably, keying the vehicle to start up. It gently rose into the air; I brought the map back up to display the route back into the underlevels. People go on and on about men refusing to ask for directions and use maps and such. I don't see why. I'd rather avoid getting lost in the first place, and a steely glare in the right direction can vanquish all potential embarrassment about asking where the nearest cantina is.
"Who are you?"
The kid's voice bit back into my mind. I glanced over at him, supressing a wince at my speeder's distressing groans. "They sent you off with me and didn't even tell you my name!"
"Who are you?" he repeated, clearly irritated at my insistant rambling. At least, that was what his expression said it was.
Bloody... I kicked the underside of my speeder's dash. Did the thing never cooperate? "Orlin. Orlin Wells," I gritted, giving it a second kick. There was a mild sense of satisfaction in my voice as the noises ceased, and the speeder rose back up into the air properly.
I grasped the controls, and steered it away. "You?"
For a moment, I had forgotten. I already knew his name. But he answered anyway, voice almost hidden underneath the clarity of the speeder's hum. "Raoin Autumn, Master Wells."